Stanford University recently published an important study on how young people evaluate information online. The findings were disappointing, though not necessarily surprising. I have heard many proponents of social media applaud these platforms, citing as a primary reason the ease of accessibility to information they provide. But I have seldom encountered skeptics who are concerned about the critical thinking skills of the consumers, the receivers of this flood of information. That is why this Stanford study is a breath of fresh air.
Here are two facts that particularly stood out to me from the article:
“Students were asked to evaluate two Facebook posts announcing Donald Trump’s candidacy for president. One was from the verified Fox News account and the other was from an account that looked like Fox News. Only a quarter of the students recognized and explained the significance of the blue checkmark. And over 30 percent of students argued that the fake account was more trustworthy because of some key graphic elements that it included.”
“But of the 203 students surveyed, more than 80 percent believed a native ad, identified with the words “sponsored content,” was a real news story.” [Mind you the study as a whole included 7804 students.]
Hopefully teachers and shapers of educational policy will read this study and see the significance of instructing students from an early age on how to think. Not what to think. Our economy cannot function at its apex with ignorant consumers, nor can our communities flourish with misinformed citizens.